Why Should We Visit
The great estates of the Scottish Borders are a snapshot of history and a reminder of a time when garden was carried out on a monumental scale. Mertoun has all the features of an 18th century gentleman’s home, from the designed parkland to the productive vegetable garden that would have fed both the house and workers on the estate.
What’s singular about Mertoun is its position overlooking the River Tweed as it twists like a ribbon through the countryside, while the 26 acres that surround the house are filled with fine trees and open meadows.
Story of the Garden
Mertoun House was designed by Sir William Bruce for Sir William Scott of Harden and was built in 1703-05. Little is known of the early history of the gardens but it is possible that part of them at least pre-date the house.
Many of the great trees that have now reached maturity were planted as saplings when the house was created, but the original residence, Old Mertoun House, with its distinctive pink-washed walls, still stands. It dates from 1677 and it was incorporated into the walled garden when this was built.
Today it is home to the head gardener who cares for the gardens on behalf of Mertoun Gardens Trust.
The trees that surround the garden provide protection from cold winds allowing many different kinds of plants and flowers to flourish but large areas have been left open in order to make the most of the views.
The walled garden at Mertoun sits on a south-facing slope, where it benefits from long hours of sun in summer. It covers three acres and includes the glasshouses and cold frames that were a vital part of fruit production in the days when exotic fruits and early vegetables were a requirement of every grand dining table.
Today it is still in full production, with rows of immaculate vegetables, hot houses filled with peaches and figs.
Beyond the walled garden, Mertoun also has imposing herbaceous borders, which at this time of the year are dominated by hydrangeas, Persicarias and towering pampas grass.
The arboretum that has been established over the last 50 years has added to the already-impressive tree collection. It contains both conifers and hardwoods and it is accessible by way of the many walks that meander through most parts of the gardens.
Anything Else To Look Out For
The circular doo’cot at Merton dates from 1567 and is thought to be the oldest in Scotland.
Best Time To Visit
Mertoun opens its gates to visitors from that moment in spring when the early foliage is green and fresh to the point where the trees are beginning to show the first signs of autumn colour. High summer, when the walled garden is in full production and the herbaceous borders are at their best is a favourite time with many of Mertoun’s visitors.
Any Recommendations in the Area?
The romantic ruins of Dryburgh Abbey, sit just a short distance upstream from Mertoun. Established in 1150, it was a centre of monastic life for 400 years until the Reformation brought about its closure. Today its high walls provide roosting sites for a number of different species of bat, while the grave of Sir Walter Scott can be found within its beautifully-landscaped grounds.
Mertoun Gardens can be found by the B6404, 2 miles north-east of St Boswells.
Mertoun Gardens is open on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays until September 30, from 2pm until 6pm.
T: 01835 823236
From Roman occupation to the battle in 1645 when the Royalists under the command of the Marquis of Montrose were defeated by a Covenanter army, Philiphaugh near Selkirk has witnessed periods of turmoil. Today life at is more peaceful, which is good news for the many visitors who come to explore the many attractions of this country estate near Selkirk.
At its heart is a fully-restored walled garden filled with flowers and produce that are available for sale.
In the salmon viewing centre the epic battle of fish to swim upstream through the strong currents of the river Ettrick is made visible, while the force of the water is also used to turn two massive Archimedes screw turbines, which generate enough electricity to power 225 houses.
From the hydro station there is a lovely walk to the meeting of the Rivers Ettrick and Yarrow and from there its a further stroll through the woodland to the Waterwheel Café.
The Old Joinery on the estate is home to Selkirk’s first gin distillery. Operating since March 2019, Selkirk Distillery has benefited immensely from its surroundings. Botanicals found either growing naturally on the estate grounds, or cultivated by the gardeners in the walled gardens, have been successfully used within their popular products.
Gorse flowers are frequently foraged by the distillers as one of the main botanicals in their two core products, Selkirk and Bannock Gin. Fruits and herbs from the walled gardens have given rise to popular seasonal liqueurs such as Raspberry & White Chocolate, Plum & Bramble, White Currant & Mint, and Sloe Berry & Spiced Apple.
Philiphaugh is a fine example of a traditional Borders estate that’s found a new purpose and is playing a vibrant role in the local community.
Tel: 01750 217666
In Association With Discover Scottish Gardens. See discoverscottishgardens.org